I took about a month off from Facebook this summer. It seems social media in general, and Facebook in particular, has degraded into a steady stream of political rants, airing of family grievances and other dirty laundry, and a general level of narcissism that makes my skin crawl.
A friend who knew I had gone off the grid (and why) told me about a mother who had posted a note her child’s teacher had written to her about her child’s performance in his class. This mother felt compelled to share the note with 500 of her closest friends.
Don’t get me wrong; I think my girls do some pretty wonderful things, and I have talked about them on Facebook from time to time. We all have. I’m not saying it’s not okay to be proud of your kid, but sometimes, you have to ask yourself, “Why do I feel the need to tell everyone I know about this?”
A funny thing happened when I turned away from Facebook: I discovered that I like my privacy. I like how it feels to receive good news and only share it with the people who are closest to me in real life. I found that, the longer I was off, the more I wanted to keep things to myself.
Another interesting side effect: I stopped scrutinizing the face that looked back at me in the mirror. No longer on an unending quest to find a decent profile picture, I went back to taking no more than a normal interest in my appearance and not picking myself apart.
I also found that I was able to listen to and process the daily news more intelligently. Although I never looked to social media for reliable information regarding the news, I did see what people would post about those events, and in turn, the comments that almost always dissolved into angry exchanges, often including expletive-laden rants and ugly name-calling.
Now that I’ve been away from it, when I scroll through my feed and read the comments on a news story or other post about currents events, I feel as if I’m watching an episode of Jerry Springer from the nineties, back when those shows were in their heyday and viewers were fascinated by people who were willing to go on national television and scream at each other. Now, the cat fighting takes place around the clock on the internet, and anyone is free to jump in and join the brawl – anonymously, if they choose.
Today was Hope’s first day of high school. Like I’ve done every year since preschool, I took a picture of her this morning. For the past five years or so, ever since I joined social media, I have posted those pictures. Never thought much of it. Until this morning. After I snapped a few shots, I asked Hope which one she liked best.
“Are you going to put these on Facebook?” she asked. It was a question that, in previous years, I would have answered without hesitation: “Of course!” This year, after a month away from “the fishbowl”, as my husband likes to call it, Hope’s question gave me pause.
“I don’t have to,” I replied.
“It’s your page, you can put them up if you want to,” she said, and I saw it: She was uncomfortable.
“But it’s your life,” I told her, “and you have every right not to want your picture on the internet.”
“Well, then, I’d rather you not post them,” she said.
You got it, Hopey. I’m just sorry I never asked you before.